Everyone called it adult summer camp, but my childhood summer camps were never this fun. After three flights, two layovers and a four-hour drive, I rolled into Camp Navarro with the UCO crew. We were there for The Outpost flagship trade show – a new take on outdoor trade shows that puts the emphasis on experience over sales. Three days later, we pulled out and hit the road, exhausted but exhilarated. Outpost was a one-of-a-kind event that achieved a certain kind of magic out in the Redwoods of northern California.
In a recent interview with Rivet and Jeans, the creators of Outpost explained that the concept for the show came about out of frustration with the overwhelming nature of trying to seed product, organize photoshoots and attend trade shows with limited time and budget. It was time for a new model.
“We talked about how it would be nice if there was a community-oriented platform to capture these things in one swoop,” Outpost co-founder Jeff Wolfe said. “Brands need different tools and need a place to tell their story and articulate their culture, which is really what The Outpost is doing. It’s about creating a platform for brands to show what they stand for. Less about product, more about culture.”
For a smaller brand like UCO that’s trying to compete in a crowded market, this was the perfect opportunity to get in front of a core group of users, media and influencers for minimal cost. In addition to a three-hour “trade show” on Friday afternoon, Outpost offered panels, film screenings, concerts and numerous activations centered around the product lines of its brand partners. For UCO, that was a stargazer’s hike, which led a group of hikers through the woods in the dark of night (their way lit by UCO headlamps, of course) to a lookout point where they could relax and take in the stars (or in this case, the moon). Afterwards, they got to keep the headlamps, which haven’t even hit the market yet. For UCO’s sister brand, Swedish knife maker Morakniv, the activation centered around cooking with fire, with a live demonstration from chef Derek Wolfe and a Mora Companion for each participant to use, then take home. Hands-on, memorable experiences with the products, rather than a rushed conversation about specs on a showroom floor.
The Outpost did kick off with a trade show portion, but even that flipped convention on its head. Instead of heavily branded booths varying in size and complexity depending on budget, brand partners lined up side-by-side along folding tables to show their wares. The result was a show that organically encouraged conversation, collaboration and community. Of all the incredible activations and events throughout the weekend, the trade show was my favorite because everyone was so genuinely interested in connecting and checking out each other’s products. From a PR standpoint, it was an awesome networking opportunity for Darby. I caught up with editors I’ve met and worked with, along with new media contacts, potential brand partners, influencers, photographers and nonprofits. What a truly unique chance to spend quality time with these folks and connect over shared experiences and a love of the outdoors.
In addition to the exposure and networking, an added bonus for brand partners was the incredible amount of media that came from the show. Close to a dozen Outpost photographers canvassed the event all weekend, capturing incredible content that each brand now has access to use and share. I think it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for both Darby and the brands involved. The aim was to give attendees a memorable experience, as opposed to a hard sell. In that, it was a success, and it was definitely an experience I would sign up for again.